International organizations are a relatively new phenomenon in the time-honoured world of politics. They first emerged during the nineteenth century and became ever more important over the course of the twentieth century. Today, international organizations are involved in innumerable issue areas — from A as in Arms Control to Z as in Zones of Fishing. Comprehensive international organizations such as the United Nations (UN) or the European Union (EU) cover a multitude of different issue areas at once, while a large number of sectoral organizations such as the International Labour Organization (ILO) or the European Space Agency (ESA) specialize in specific issue areas. Some international organizations, like the UN, have (nearly) universal membership. Others restrict membership on the basis of criteria such as geography, economy or culture; examples are the EU, the African Union (AU), the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Together, the various kinds of international organizations are part and parcel of contemporary global governance. This is to say that they contribute to create and implement norms and rules which — at least claim to — guide the cooperative management of transnational, cross-border problems such as climate change, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or transnational terrorism (Rittberger et al. 2010: chs. 3.2 & 4). It is thus no exaggeration to say that without international organizations it would be difficult to address the substance of much of contemporary world politics (Keohane 1989; Keohane & Nye 2001).
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